The Catholic Tradition

The True Wealth of Nations | Catholic Education | The Catholic Tradition | Generations in Dialogue | Interreligious and Ecumenical Topics

traditions-candlesFrom the beginning of the Catholic experience, tradition has guided both the expression and transmission of the faith to successive generations. The Catholic philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre has reminded us that tradition is a historically extended and socially embodied argument. In other words, tradition is a multifaceted, sometimes contentious, but ultimately continuous exploration of what is most important in living and believing. One important component of the Church’s tradition is natural law, long thought to be a basis for the Church’s emphasis on reason, as it presumes that the basic moral teachings common to all peoples can be understood through the use of reason. This research will explore historically, philosophically, and theologically the meaning and significance of natural law, and its relationship to the foundation and scope of teaching authority in the Catholic Church today. Francis Oakley, medieval historian who is president emeritus of Williams College and of the American Council of Learned Societies, and Michael Lacey, retired director of the Woodrow Wilson’s American Studies Program, both members of the Institute’s board, are leading this research project.




Relevant Books

The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity


(Oxford, Spring 2011)

The essays in this book, edited by Francis Oakley, intellectual historian and former president of Williams College and Michael Lacey, former director of the American Studies Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C., shed new light on the paradox of power in the life and thought of the Catholic Church today, focusing on the tensions between authority asserted and authority observed. The result is an essential primer on the present moment in contemporary Catholicism.


Believing Scholars: Ten Catholic Intellectuals


How do Catholic intellectuals draw on faith in their work? And how does their work as scholars influence their lives as people of faith? For more than a generation, the University of Dayton has invited a prominent Catholic intellectual to present the annual Marianist Award Lecture on the general theme of the encounter of faith and profession. Over the years, the lectures have become central to the Catholic conversation about church, culture, and society. In this book, ten leading figures explore the connections in their own lives between the private realms of faith and their public calling as teachers, scholars, and intellectuals.

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Passing on the Faith


From the beginning, the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have stressed the importance of transmitting religious identity from one generation to the next. Today, that sustaining mission has never been more challenged. Will young people have a faith to guide them? How can faith traditions anchor religious attachments in this secular, skeptical culture?

Filled with real-world wisdom, Passing the Faith will be an essential resource for anyone seeking to understand what religions must, and can, do to inspire a vigorous faith in the next generation.

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